I’ve had the pleasure of being able to write for Daily Cannon since April 2011.
Having an opinion is one thing, but being able to reach such a wide and knowledgeable audience on a regular basis with one is quite another. Some of you have agreed with my viewpoints, and some of you have not. But if any of my pieces have ever made you think about your own point of view of the subject in question, then I’ll have succeeded in my goal.
So if you’ll allow me, today’s article won’t be about Arsenal, but one I wrote before in September of 2010 for my own blog page, but have amended to include recent information. If you’ve read this already (it’s doubtful but you never know!) then I apologise, but it’s a subject that I’ve had a lot of experience with over the years, and is one that too few people understand, hence the reposting today.
Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Awareness Day. Every 40 seconds, a person dies by suicide somewhere in the world. The goal of today is to increase awareness of the public health significance of suicide and suicide attempts, and to make suicide prevention a higher priority on the global public health agenda. But numbers can only tell a small fraction of the story. The rest of the story is below.
Today, I’m going to talk about something much more important than football. And I apologise in advance if I upset anyone with the following article. But this is something that has affected more people than any football match ever will. So if you’ll allow me, I’ll begin.
I tried to kill myself fifteen years ago.
Isn’t it amazing how eight little words like that can be so evocative. But it’s true. When I was 17, I decided that life wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t a hard decision either. I had considered all the pros and cons of my life, and had come to the then seemingly logical conclusion that I’d be better off dead. My father had been sent to jail, my girlfriend had dumped me, and my grades were slipping in school thanks to a combination of having to work a full-time job because my father had gone, and studying at the same time. This, all while dealing with the public fallout from what my dad had done to get locked up.
It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time, it felt like I was making the right choice. I could honestly see no point in living. None.
So, one night, I swallowed a packet of painkillers, and proceeded to stand at the top of the staircase.
I smacked my head off something in the middle of the staircase and knocked myself unconscious. Next thing I know, I’m in the hospital having my stomach pumped. As I slowly came around, the first thing I heard could hear was some nurses asking me what it was that I had swallowed, but I couldn’t answer them, partially of the effects of the drugs I had taken, but mostly because I was just too ashamed to admit anything at the time. Of course, it didn’t take too long for them to put two and two together and figure out what I’d done. I was mortified when they asked me the obvious question.
There I was, lying in a hospital bed, being asked why I had tried to commit suicide. Yet all I could do was look at them, slowly shrug my shoulders, and reply “Why not?” That’s all I could come up with. In my head it had all made sense, but actually saying it aloud proved beyond me. I didn’t believe that anyone else would understand where I was coming from, that if I actually explained in detail why I thought my life wasn’t worth living, no-one would take me seriously. I knew, that if I said what I thought, I’d sound like an absolute moron. But in that same instant, I knew that what I was thinking was entirely logical.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what having mental health problems can do to you. There I was, a stuttering, gibbering wreck, trying to make sense of the situation I was in, all whilst two conflicting opinions on what to do were bouncing round in my head. I had lost all sense of perspective. Not only had I tried to kill myself, but at the same time as I was telling my doctor that I realised I had made a stupid mistake in not telling anyone I wasn’t feeling too well, I was criticising myself for botching up killing myself in the first place!
The doctor diagnosed me as being manic depressive. At the time, I had thought nothing of walking down the road and then suddenly feeling like shit because I’d remembered something stupid I’d said to someone when I was seven. I had thought nothing of being critical of myself when scoring “only” 95% in tests in school. I thought this happened to everyone, so I dealt with it by myself. I thought I’d be able to cope with everything, and that I didn’t need help from no-one. Little did I know that I was slowly going insane, and that my idea of “dealing with it” would lead me to end up standing at the top of my staircase thinking “Thank God it’s all about to end.”
Now I’m sure at this stage, you’re all reading this asking “Why is he writing all of this?” I’ll tell you. Yesterday I found out that a mate of mine had committed suicide. He’s the third person I know that’s done this in the last eighteen months. And it’s the third time that I’ve had no inkling whatsoever that there had been anything wrong with them. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one (Since this article was written in 2010, that number has now risen to EIGHT).
Suicide is an awful, terrible, ridiculous thing. For someone with good mental health, to even consider such a thing is just mind-boggling. To not realise that there might be something wrong with you that’s making you think that suicide is even remotely a good idea, is ludicrous. You would have to be insane to think that giving up on life was even remotely a good idea. But that’s the problem. The reason I thought suicide was a good idea was because I was crazy. I just didn’t realise at the time.
And there-in lies the issue. No-one realises that something is actually wrong when they start contemplating taking their own life. They just assume it’s normal. It sounds insane, but that’s because they are slowly going insane. Yet for some reason, society has never regarded a person’s mental health as highly as their physical well-being.
Broken arm? “You’d better go to the hospital.”
Broken leg? “You’d better go to the hospital.”
Broken mind? “Get a grip of yourself, will you?!”
This laissez-faire attitude to mental illness is doubly concerning when the bare statistics of just how many people are affected by it every day. In 2013, if you were a man under the age of 50, the most likely cause of your death wouldn’t have been cancer, or heart disease, or murder, or any other outside influence. It would’ve have been your own hands that killed you. A quarter of all males between the ages of 20-34 who died in Britain in 2013, committed suicide. A QUARTER.
So why is so little done to raise awareness of it? A lot of it is down to the easy habit of judging a book by its cover. Every day, we fall into the trap of underestimating something if we haven’t actually seen it with our own eyes. And with mental health issues, this is especially so, as many people can’t comprehend why someone would choose to end their own life when they haven’t seen any physical signs indicating that something is wrong.
That’s why suicide often gets mislabeled as being a selfish act, because those who knew the victim rarely suspected that anything was wrong in the first place. The one question that always gets asked when somebody close to us commits suicide is “Why didn’t they tell me about it?” because the vast majority of us would gladly give up some of our time to help a friend or relative if we thought their life was at risk.
So here is a little exercise for you to do: Two questions;
- How many people do you have in your life that you could tell everything about yourself? And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Three? Four, perhaps? It won’t be much more than that for anyone, so don’t feel left out if your number is less than that.
- How many people do you have in your life that you would tell everything about yourself? It’s a small but crucial difference from the first question, because even if you have an abundance of people available to open up to, it would still take a big effort to tell them EVERYTHING.
And as you imagine how awkward you would feel whilst talking to someone you care deeply for, about all of your inner secrets, now try to imagine what it would feel like telling that same person that you want to die. Could you do it? And even if you could, would you feel comfortable with burdening them with that information? Probably not, right?
This is why people never suspect that anything is mentally wrong with their friends, because very few people tell anyone if they’re suffering in the first place. It is an endless catch 22, in which people want to help others cope with mental health issues, but they don’t want to burden others by seeking help for their own struggles. Suicide isn’t selfish, but calling it selfish is just the natural reaction from those who wish they could’ve had a chance to prevent it from happening.
So how can we help those suffering right now? Well, I’ll leave you with this piece of advice. If you’re feeling a little down, or if something is getting you worked up for no reason, or even if someone you know is acting a bit weird lately, talk to someone about it. It doesn’t matter who you talk to. Nor does it matter what you say. Just say something. Anything. Just don’t make the same mistake I made, and many others make, by trying to bottle it up and just suffer in silence. You’re only doing yourself harm, both physically AND mentally.
Trust me. I know.